Alain Junguenet isn’t the only name in Châteauneuf - Eric Solomon has been a standard bearer for generations. Domaine, Giroud, Janasse, Marcoux and Clos St. Jean have all been on Billboard top 20 for 2 decades now. All producers well regarded for their masculine, opulent styles that manage to remain fresh and balanced, they have had no difficulty in finding ardent adherents to their annual releases.
2016, however, is different. This really is a once-in-a-generation vintage. The balance between freshness and fruit is truly impeccable, approaching a zen-like quality that seems to possess everything in perfect equipoise. With critics, producers and importers all exuberantly exalting the quality here, and having tasted many myself when in France in January, 2016 is definitely not one to miss.
After some soul searching and grueling work in the early 2000s, the Giraud brother and sister duo have brought this once-lagging Domaine to the top of quality hierarchy. By the end of the decade, everyone was taking note. Although it is a family effort, it has really been the talented Marie Giraud who has revolutionized the cellar work here, with some advice from the ubiquitous and ever in-demand Philippe Cambie.
Now having converted to biodynamics in the vineyards and leaning more and more to a hands-off approach in the cellar, the juice here has been marvellous. In 2016, it is epic.
“This estate has been run flawlessly by Marie Giraud for more than a decade now and the estate is consistently in the top handful of domaines in each vintage. She’s excelled in the more difficult 2015 vintage, and has produced some of the wines of the vintage in 2016. If you don’t know about Domaine Giraud, you’re missing out.” – Jeb Dunnuck on Domaine Giraud
2016 Giraud Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tradition (91-93 pts. Dunnuck)
2016 Giraud Châteauneuf-du-Pape Grenache de Pierre (95-97 pts. Dunnuck)
2016 Giraud Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Gallimardes (96-100 pts. Dunnuck)
Domaine de la Janasse
Janasse has been a mainstay of the Châteauneuf circuit for decades. Founded in 1973 by Aimé Sabon of the famous Châteauneuf Sabons, today the Domaine is clearly among the elite. The farming is impeccable and organic; the winemaking has a modern flare for opulent fruit; nevertheless, the wines are somehow unique to their terroir and evidence a great deal of complexity. A critical and consumer favorite, I’m not sure much more needs to be said!
“Just a huge, rich, unctuous wine, it offers everything you could want from Grenache and is certainly going to challenge the 2007 and 2010 as the greatest expression of this terroir to date.” – Jeb Dunnuck on Domaine de la Janasse
2016 Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Janasse (94-96 pts. Dunnuck)
2016 Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Chaupin (97-100 pts. Dunnuck)
2016 Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes (98-100 pts. Dunnuck)
Domaine de Marcoux
I don’t think many Châteauneuf experiences can claim Burgundian inspiration, but after Philippe Estevenin visited with Madame Leroy-Bize in Burgundy, he was convinced: biodynamic was the key to quality. That was in 1990. Today Marcoux is among the leaders of the appellation and producing some of the most compelling wines in all of France. These are indeed blockbusters; pass them by at your peril.
“Noticeably darker in color than the 2015, the 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a bigger, richer wine and offers lots of ripe black cherry, currants and garrigue aromatics, full-bodied richness, substantial tannin, and a blockbuster finish. This 2016 checks in as 85% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre and 5% Syrah, aged primarily in concrete, yet with 10% in oak tanks. Buy a case, you won’t regret it.” – Jeb Dunnuck on Domaine Marcoux
2016 Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape (92-94 pts. Dunnuck)
2016 Marcoux Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vieille Vigne (95-97 pts. Dunnuck)
Domaine Clos St. Jean
Clos St. Jean - or CSJ - as it is known to many collectors, is one of the appellation’s brightest lights. With large holdings on the La Crau plateau, and many vines well over 100 years old, they are well positioned to produce knock out wines. Add in a little input from rock-star consultant Philippe Cambie, and, well, you’ve got a recipe for success!
“I’ve written so many glowing reviews on the wines of Clos Saint Jean I sometimes feel like a broken record. Nevertheless, this estate continues to go from strength to strength and has yet to make a misstep since I’ve been reviewing the wines.” – JEB DUNNUCK on Domaine Clos St. Jean